The Eight Parts of Speech
Anyone learning about language will be aware that words perform different functions in a piece of writing. In English, we refer to the “Eight Parts of Speech”, i.e. the eight types of words that broadly cover all parts of language. Knowing the differences will help you be able to use words correctly and create interesting writing.
Consider this sentence:
- “Wow! Her rude boyfriend talked constantly on his phone and coughed loudly during the performance.”
The example above contains all eight parts of speech. They are listed below:
Noun(s) = boyfriend, phone, performance
Pronoun(s) = her, his
Verb(s) = talked, coughed
Adjective = rude, the (article)
Preposition(s) = on, during, with
Adverb(s) = loudly, constantly
Interjection = wow
Conjunction = and
The eight parts of speech all have their individual functions in a sentence, helping us better understand the meaning and context of language. Below we will discuss all eight parts of speech separately, giving original examples for each.
A noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea. In simple terms, we can refer to a noun as a naming word.
- John left the house early that morning.
We also break nouns down nouns into two main categories, proper nouns and common nouns. A proper noun, which generally is the name of someone or something, like John, Chicago or Mount Rushmore, is always capitalized regardless of where it appears in a sentence. Common nouns, such as dogs, college or football, are only capitalized if they begin a sentence. Remember that nouns can be singular or plural, and they will take an apostrophe to show possession.
Some more examples of nouns in sentences:
- Science and geography are Mike’s favourite subjects.
- The president will visit France on Tuesday.
Pronouns are used to replace nouns. We do this to avoid repetition, but also to indicate things like possession.
- Mandy took her dog for a walk, but it barked the whole time.
In the example above, the pronoun her replaces the noun Mandy and it replaces the noun dog.
There are several categories of pronouns: Personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, relative pronouns, reflexive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns.
Some more examples of pronouns in sentences:
- If you leave now, only James and I will remain behind.
- Their feet ached more than ours.
A verb is a word that expresses an action, feeling or state of being.
- We sang songs, danced all night, and by the morning had fallen in love.
In the above example, sang, danced and had fallen are the verbs of the sentence. As they are verbs, they must have agreement with the subject, in this case we, and they must demonstrate tense, in this case the past tense.
More examples of verbs in sentences:
- Can you bring me something from the kitchen? I am
- They will decide later, or they might not decide at all. Who knows?
An adjective is a word used to modify or describe a noun or pronoun.
- Jenna has blue eyes, and her hair is soft and long.
You can usually spot an adjective because it will be placed before the noun it is describing, such as blue describing the color of Jenna’s eyes in the example above. However, adjectives can also act as a complement to a linking verb or the verb to be, such as the adjectives soft and long in the example above. The articles the, a and an are also considered adjectives.
More examples of adjectives in sentences:
- Bring me the little spotted dog, or a large golden
- The best days of my life were my teenage years.
An adverb is a word used to modify or describe a verb, adjective or a sentence.
- We walked quietly down the hallway.
In the above example the adverb quietly is modifying or describing the verb walked, i.e. telling the reader that the action of walking was carried out in a certain way. We often recognize adverbs by the fact they end in ly, but some adverbs look exactly the same as adjectives. Fast, for instance, can be both an adverb and an adjective.
More examples of adverbs in sentences
- He spoke fast and licked his lips incessantly.
- They reacted angrily to the very long list of demands.
Prepositions are used to indicate relationships between nouns, phrases or pronouns to other words in a sentence. They are the words that help weld a sentence together, by expressing time, position, distance etc.
- The man in the overalls is standing on the roof.
Prepositions are often small words like on, at, for, to and in. They are generally followed by nouns and pronouns, but, as is often the case in English, there are some exceptions.
More examples of prepositions in sentences:
- He must arrive before sunset, because we close the gate at
- I was born in 1983; three years after my brother.
Like prepositions, conjunctions tend to glue a sentence together. They do this by acting as linking words between words, phrases and clauses.
- We are hungry, but we don’t have time to eat.
The two main types of conjunctions are coordinating conjunctions (words like but, so, for, and), which act to connect two independent clauses with equal grammatical weight, and subordinating conjunctions (words like although, because, since), which connect independent and dependent clauses that are not equal.
More examples of conjunctions in sentences:
- Although he always left a tip, the waiters were still rude.
- Cheese and crackers are my favorite snacks, yet I never eat them during the summer.
An interjection is used to express a strong feeling or sudden emotion.
- Gosh! I forgot my coat again.
Interjections are usually used informally, and you will find the words appear in speech more so than formal or academic writing. When interjections are used in writing they are often followed by an exclamation point, which helps to convey the sense of sudden emotion or urgency.
More examples of interjections in sentences:
- Oi! Tell that man to stop immediately.
- Indeed! That was quite the vacation.